Why Do Jewish Holidays Begin at Nightfall?

Written by Renee Eder on . Posted in Torah

My family is looking forward to Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) this year, for the apples and honey, celebrating with friends and family, and delicious brisket dinner. The holiday starts this year on Sunday evening, Sept. 9, and goes until Tuesday, Sept. 11. Ever wonder why they begin the holiday at night, rather than on the next morning?

According to the Jewish calendar, not only do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall, but every day does. This is based on the story of creation in Genesis, where at the end of each day it says, “And it was evening, and it was morning; day one,” “And it was evening, and it was morning; the second day” etc. By mentioning evening before morning, the Torah defines a day as beginning with the evening, followed by the morning.

According to Jewish theologians, the passage of time is not only relevant to how we set up the calendar. It has profound implications as to our attitude to life itself. Everyone agrees that life is full of ups and downs. We go through periods where the sun is shining upon us and we feel on top of the world, only to turn a corner and be faced with difficulties and obstacles that drag us down. But it isn’t long before something pleasant comes our way to pick us up again.

As an optimist, I really appreciate this view: First the night, then the day. Darkness is a pathway to the sunrise hiding behind it. A challenge comes our way only to help us tap in to and reveal our inner powers that have until now remained unfathomed. I enjoy the comfort in knowing that no matter how dark it may seem, it is light that will have the last word.

This content was originally published on the official blog of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Viriginia (JCCNV) and is republished here with permission. Learn about JCCNV programs and services at www.jccnv.org.

Renee Eder

Renee Eder hails from Rockland County, New York, and has been a resident of the DC area for 20 years. Professionally, she has done consulting work in marketing, public relations, branding, and website redesign at George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, and at various associations and charities in the DC area. She currently writes the blog and maintains the Facebook page for the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. Renee and her family are members of Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, Virginia.